Religion/Religious Studies  Program Description


Insider Info

dotBuddhism, Catholicism, Shintoism, Muslim, Hinduism, the Baha'i faith and Protestantism -- you'll learn about these religions and more in a religious studies major.

Religious studies is also sometimes called comparative religions. You'll find it offered across North America at the bachelor's, master's and PhD levels. Most students go on to pursue a graduate degree.

This degree won't prepare you for a specific career. But it will give you the kind of liberal education that prepares you for a variety of paths, from education to law.

Strong reading and writing skills are important, says Kathryn McClymond, a professor at Georgia State University. You must also be able to separate opinions from academic study.

You'll also need some background in other languages, says Mario Morelli. He is chair of religious studies at Western Illinois University. "For students who want to explore certain areas, such as world religions or biblical studies, an aptitude for foreign languages is important," he says.

Courses encompass philosophy, sociology, history, anthropology, English, foreign languages and the arts. This combination is necessary for students to fully understand why cultures have certain belief systems.

Schools with good, thorough religious studies programs focus on all aspects of a culture or religion, including the historical, sociological, theological, anthropological and ethnographical aspects, in an undergraduate program. At the higher levels, you'll be able to specialize more, focusing on a single religion or historical period.

"Students will gain a competence in analyzing and interpreting complex social and cultural phenomena, and a familiarity with the diverse ways people try to make sense of and give meaning to their lives," says Morelli.

Joining religious studies societies provides students with newsletters, career information and current job opportunities. Some of the more prominent organizations include the American Academy of Religion, the Council for Biblical Studies, the Council of Societies for the Study of Religion and the American Academy of Religion.

High school students should take a foreign language, history, religion or any other ethnic courses.

McClymond recommends students take "classes that develop all of these abilities -- history, English, social sciences, philosophy. Also, classes that force students to write argumentative essays and classes that expose students to other cultures, other ways of understanding the world."

Debate clubs help you to organize and communicate ideas. Any activity that exposes you to different cultural backgrounds is worthwhile.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Teachers -- Post-secondary

Religion News Service
Objective coverage of current events in the world's religions

Virtual Religion Index
Lots of links from Rutgers University

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this program is about? Check out Just the Facts for a simple description.